Friday 6 December 2019

Organ donations helping family to cope

John Byrne (39) was killed crossing the road last Friday as he returned from his local chipper
John Byrne (39) was killed crossing the road last Friday as he returned from his local chipper

A family whose son was killed crossing the road at the weekend have said a decision to donate his organs to help others is helping them deal with their grief.

John Byrne (39) had Down syndrome and attended the Prosper Fingal centre for people with intellectual disabilities in Rush on a daily basis.

The health-conscious man from Oldtown, on the Dublin border with Co Meath, enjoyed one treat of a bag of chips every Friday, and it was when he was on his way back from the local chip shop he was knocked down at a pedestrian crossing.

He was taken to Beaumont Hospital but his head injuries were to prove fatal.

"John was very independent, and got two buses each day to get to Rush," his father Tom told the Herald from their family home.

"This incident has been really traumatic. It is the most difficult thing to happen in our lives.

"He was on life-support in Beaumont and we initially had hope for him, but that hope faded and we were told he was brain dead.

"But when one of the staff suggested organ donation, we knew it would be what John would have wanted.


"As my wife Barbara said to me, if John is alive in other people he is not dead at all.

"John was very healthy. I grow organic vegetables and we eat healthy food, which meant he could have his chips as a treat on a Friday. He didn't smoke or drink, so he ticked all the boxes when it came to organ donation."

Prosper Fingal centre
Prosper Fingal centre

Speaking about John's independence, Tom said being able to get the bus on his own and walk to the chip shop meant the world to him.

"There was a time when there would be a chips treat for everyone in Prosper Fingal on a Friday, but then there was a drive toward more healthy eating and keeping weight down," he said.

"But because John was slim and had a healthy diet he was allowed to continue his treat on a Friday. But the first week he came back to the centre with the chips and there was uproar among the others, so we had to go down to the chipper with him the next week and explain to him and the staff that he would eat the chips there and then go back.

"It became part of his routine and everything went like clockwork after that," said Tom.

"He would cross the road at the same time every Friday at the pedestrian crossing, using the green man.

"Although he was 39 he was only 5ft tall and weighed less than eight stone. To us he was our boy, he was our pal.

"He was a very sociable lad, and loved the discos and meeting people.

"If ever we were out he'd be bringing girls over to us and introducing us, and then asking for their phone numbers. He had a great way with the ladies," Tom added with a smile.

"He loved the GAA. Dublin, Cork and Galway were his favourite teams, and Ireland when playing soccer. He'd wear the jerseys and watch the games."

His brother Daire said John loved the soaps as well.

"Coronation Street was his favourite," he added.

John was knocked down at 1pm on the Whitestown Road in Rush, north Co Dublin.

"Somebody at the scene went through his belongings and found a contact book with our number in it and they rang us to tell us John had been knocked down," said Tom.

"We dropped everything and went straight to Rush and found the scene, but it seemed to take the ambulance a while to arrive, and they were working on John for another while before they brought him to hospital.

"But the doctors in Beaumont told us they were still in the right time-frame to do emergency surgery on a clot on his brain."

However, John could not be saved and he was pronounced dead on Sunday.

"Independence was everything to John, and I think if that was taken away from him he would never have been the same. I don't think he could have taken it if he was left in a wheelchair or brain-damaged," Tom added.

Gardai are reviewing CCTV which captured images of the fatal incident.


They have appealed for witnesses to contact Balbriggan Garda Station on 01 6664500, the garda confidential line on 1800 666111 or any garda station.

The Byrne family has thanked the services that look after organising organ donation, Prosper Fingal, those who work in the Remember Us social group in north Co Dublin, as well as the drivers of the Nifti bus service run under the Rural Transport Programme for all the help and support they offered John during his life and after his death.

John is survived by his parents Tom and Barbara, his brother Daire and his sister Aine. His funeral takes place tomorrow at Our Lady Queen of Peace church in Oldtown at 11am.

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